UAE skipper Ahmed Raza poses for his Man of the Match award after winning the game against Nepal in Muscat, Oman.
In a watershed moment, the UAE booked their berth in the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup in Australia on Tuesday after reaching the final of the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup Qualifier A in Al Amerat, Oman. Ireland also confirmed their ticket for T20 World Cup.
UAE stopped the three-match winning run of Nepal with a 68-run victory while Ireland beat Oman by 56 runs. At the Oman Academy ground 1, UAE exhibited a clinical performance to reach the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup for the second time.
The last time UAE made it to the global showpiece event was in 2014. For Ireland, the only Full Member nation in Qualifier A, it will be their seventh appearance at the global showpiece event.
The two winning teams took the 13th and 14th spots for the tournament in Australia later this year, with the last two places to be decided at the Qualifier B in July.
The winner of Thursday’s final between UAE and Ireland will secure a place in Group 1 of the First Round at the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup in Australia later this year.
UAE players celebrate after winning the match against Nepal in Muscat.
They will join Sri Lanka and Namibia with the fourth team to be decided after the Qualifier B in June. The runner-up on Thursday will join West Indies and Scotland in Group 2. The winner of Qualifier B will complete the Group 2 in June.
Chasing an imposing victory target of 176 to win, Nepal were rocked by the early strikes of UAE pacer Junaid Siddique. The quick, was in top gear, removing the top-three Nepal batters in his three-over spell.
A sensational opening over saw Siddique sending back opener Aasif Sheikh and one-down batter Lokesh Bam off two successive balls.
Nepal were 3-2 in six balls and the chase looked a tall order. Siddique then took the prize scalp of Nepal’s in-form batter Kushal Bhurtel in his second over. UAE skipper Ahmed Raza’s double-strike in the 13th over extinguished whatever hopes Nepal had as they were down to 83-6.
Raza’s golden arm found him more success to wrap up Nepal innings for 107 and his five-wicket haul earning him the player of the match award.
The experienced duo of Dipendra Singh Airee (38) and Gyanendra Malla were the only batters to reach double digits.
Earlier, Vriitya Aravind, the new poster boy of UAE Cricket, continued with his blazing batting display. A whirlwind knock of 46 off 23 set the tone for his team’s impressive total. Opting to make the first use of the wicket, UAE plans to get off a fast start in the match were thwarted by Nepal bowlers.
Chirag Suri was castled by Jitendra Mukhiya, who finished with a three-wicket haul, as UAE were 6-1 in 10 balls. Opener Muhammad Waseem regained his touch and along with Aravind took the rival attack to the cleaners.
Waseem launched the first six of the game and then went on to showcase an exhibition of some powerful hitting around the park. Aravind smashed three boundaries in the fourth off Mukhiya. The 19-year-old batter was in his own zone as he produced some sizzling shots over the next few overs.
A six and a four off Abinash Bohara were followed by another six and a boundary off Nepal captain Sandeep Lamichhane. A second successive half-century was all for his taking but Lamichhane struck in his second over to end Aravind’s hurricane 23-ball innings.
The teenager had hammered 5 fours and 3 maximums. He has now scored 267 runs so far to be the leading run-getter in the qualifiers. Waseem and Muhammad Usman then shared a stand of 64. Waseem cut loose in the 11th over smashing two boundaries and a six of Bohara.
The opener reached his half-century in style with a six off Kamal Airee. With five overs remaining, UAE were 131/2. They put the pedal on the metal but lost two wickets in the 17th over off Bohara, who dismissed Usman and Waseem.
Waseem’s 48-ball 70 was laced with 4 fours and 4 sixes. Zawar Farid’s big hits got UAE a productive over, but he perished in the same over. UAE added another 21 in the last two overs to reach 175. Ahmed Raza, UAE Captain said: “It is a very emotional feeling.”
Ireland made a strong start, posting a challenging total of 165-7 after Oman won the toss and opted to field first. Openers Balbirnie and Paul Stirling, who had previously made three straight fifty partnerships, fell early to leave Ireland 19-2. But Gareth Delany struck 47 from 32 balls, before Andy McBrine added late impetus with a 21-ball 36.
Oman, who had qualified for the last two T20 World Cups, never got going with the bat and were bowled out for 105, as Irish spinners Simi Singh (3-20) and McBrine (2-24) took five wickets between them.
"I think our determination got us there today, we knew at the start of the week we needed to win three games, and we've got better every match -- and that's what you need to do in tournament cricket," said Ireland captain Balbirnie.
"Our T20 cricket has been inconsistent, and to win three matches in a row we knew we'd have to be at our best -- we managed to do that, and that was probably our best all-round performance."
It was a similarly one-sided game in the other semi-final as the UAE beat previously unbeaten Nepal by 68 runs to qualify for the main tournament for only the second time.
"I think young players should see him as a role model as he is still competing with them in domestic events and that shows how mentally strong he has been. "He is looking good and that shows he wants to go on a high."
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